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Designing efficient transit systems is only one piece of the puzzle. Getting people to use them is another.

In his bestselling “Transit Maps of the World” and followup work “Paris Metro Style: In Map and Station Design,” Mark Ovenden detailed the beauty of maps people use to navigate transit systems and of the stations themselves.

“When you walk into the Paris Metro system, with its art nouveau stations, it does affect you, whether you notice it or not,” Ovenden said. “It feels nice to be in. It encourages people to use the train.”

Ovenden will offer his take on transportation systems as the keynote speaker at the Oregon Transportation Summit, Friday, Sept. 9 at Portland State University.

Ovenden vaulted to fame with “Transit Maps of the World” after a career in radio and television. But he always had an interest in collecting maps and riding transit systems. “On a school trip to Paris at 9 or 10, I just wanted to ride the Metro all day,” he said. “The teacher said, ‘no, come with us to the Eiffel Tower, you idiot.’”

Even out of context, the maps Ovenden compiled serve as an art work. But much of their beauty lies in their function: getting people around smoothly. Some of the best maps, such...

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Tuesday, Jan. 25 dispatch from the Transportation Research Board annual meeting:

Sometimes even stimulus needs a little stimulus. That was certainly true in Los Angeles County, faced with a backlog of transportation needs.

Doug Failing, chief planner with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or Metro, spoke at a session at the Transportation Research Board's annual meeting titled “How the implementation of ARRA-TIGER projects was accelerated: a tale of four cities.”

The Los Angeles tale is one of good fortune and good timing. As talk of a federal stimulus package was heating up, the county passed Measure R in November 2008. The sales tax measure would commit a projected $40 billion to transportation projects over the next 30 years.

The federal stimulus project gave that effort a boost when it passed in early 2009. Metro then took a further step, Failing said: the agency would speed up 12 key mass-transit projects to be completed within 10 years instead of 30.

Transportation-system investments have gone a long way toward moving people more efficiently in an area known for its gridlock. Once the worst metro area in the country in terms of hours spent in traffic, that number has declined over the last decade, with other cities taking over...

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Even residents of a gingerbread candyland can't get around with holiday magic alone. After all, Santa's elves still need a reliable way to get from their cozy homes to the workshop.

Sadly, transportation planners have turned a frosty shoulder to sugar-based transit systems. Until now.

On Dec. 3, Portland State University's Students in Transportation Engineering and Planning held the first gingerbread transit station competition. Four teams of students pulled their attention away from human transit to focus on the needs of gingerbread people and misfit toys.

Dealing with building materials of unknown structural properties, students field engineered solutions. Licorice sticks stood in for steel rails, candy canes for bicycle racks. For a binding agent, students mixed cream of tartar and egg whites instead of portland cement.

The resulting transit system has already resulted in fewer traffic gum-ups and a drastic reduction in ultrafine powdered-sugar emissions. Sleigh-travel-time reliability has also improved.

Researchers are now assessing the durability of corn-syrup-reinforced composites in candy bridges, the potential for alkali-silica reaction in gingerbread pavement and the possibility that someone hungry will stumble in and eat the infrastructure.

The winning design team was Transit Wonderland, composed of Jesse Boudart, Sara Morrissey, Mark Haines and Meeyonwoo Lim.

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Rick Krochalis, Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Region X Administrator, recently kicked off the Center for Transportation Seminar Series on January 8th with a presentation on the Regional Implications of the Federal Livability Initiative. The presentation touched on the federal interagency partnership in addition to FTA’s involvement in the effort. Smart growth and transit-oriented development are not new concepts.  With growing congestion, energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, needs for maintaining a state of good repair on existing transportation systems in addition to a growing and aging and population in the United States; transit is playing a key role in helping address these issues.The seminar was followed with with a roundtable group discussion with TriMet and local partners; and meeting with faculty and students highlighting transit-related research. You can download the podcast or view the seminar if you missed the presentation.   Livability is also the theme for the winter transportation seminar series.

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Dr. Brian Taylor, Professor in Urban Planning and Director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UCLA, was the guest speaker and OTREC Visiting Scholar for the CTS Transportation Seminar on November 16, 2007. Dr. Taylor presented "Transit’s Dirty Little Secret: Analyzing Patterns of Transit Use." Later in the day, he was also the keynote speaker at the fall TransNow Student Conference at PSU, presenting "Rethinking Congestion" to the group of students from around the northwest. Professor Taylor’s research centers around transportation policy and planning. In particular, his work explores how society pays for transportation systems and how these systems in turn serve the needs of people who have low levels of mobility.

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